Here is a look at my story on Sports Collectors Daily that recalls 10 great Clemente cards.
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Forty-three years ago today, Pirates great Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th and final major-league hit, a double off Mets pitcher Jon Matlack.
Here is a look at my story on Sports Collectors Daily that recalls 10 great Clemente cards.
Suzy Favor Hamilton is not running from her past anymore.
But the former track star has put some distance between her and the secret life she led for nearly a year as a $600 per hour escort in Las Vegas.
The title of Favor Hamilton’s book — “Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness” (Dey St.; hardback; $26.99, 296 pages) — is a clever double entendre. On the surface, the three-time Olympian was an international champion, a dominating runner at the University of Wisconsin who married her college sweetheart, a doting mother, a national spokeswoman for major companies and a motivational speaker.
But that was a façade. Favor Hamilton had a dark side, driven by a bipolar disorder that fueled her desire to succeed and encouraged risky behavior.
She became a Kelly girl, Las Vegas style — but Favor Hamilton was a different kind of temp. As “Kelly,” she became the No. 2 escort in Vegas, hiring herself out by the hour to satisfy the fantasies of men — and in some cases, women. And by doing so, Favor Hamilton was living the high life. More men, more sex, more money, more gifts and more perks. What else mattered?
“Being bipolar means being insatiable,” she writes.
Her husband Mark warned that her reputation would be destroyed, but Favor Hamilton ignored his pleas, still jetting to Las Vegas for weekends, meeting high roller clients and returning with rolls of cash. That is, until a website — thesmokinggun.com — outed her secret in December 2012.
“I knew my life was ruined, over,” she writes. “My heart plummeted.”
It was certainly a low point, and Favor Hamilton even considered suicide.
Mental illness can be hard to diagnose, and bipolarity was a condition Favor Hamilton was unable to recognize as a young athlete.
“Fast Girl” is the story of an athlete who pushed hard to succeed and was never satisfied with the results, because every victory only raised the bar of expectations higher in her mind. Every triumph, every honor was dampened by anxiety — she would put more pressure on herself.
To maintain her running weight, Favor Hamilton developed bulimia in high school and it escalated in college.
“I didn’t think I could change my behavior around food if I was going to keep winning,” she writes, “and I knew I couldn’t stop winning.”
She rarely lost in college, winning nine NCAA titles, four outdoor championships, three indoor championships and a silver medal at the 1989 W0rld University Games in the 1,500 meter run.
“My running trumped everything else in my life, distorting my view of what was important,” Favor Hamilton writes.
Favor Hamilton competed, but did not win a medal at the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Summer Olympics. In 2000, she led on the final lap of the 1,500 meters, but “the closer I got to the finish line, the more certain I was that something terrible was going to happen.
Her body “turned to stone” as she lost her lead. Then, she deliberately fell on the track and feigned an injury.
That incident came less than a year after her oldest brother Dan committed suicide in September 1999. Dan Favor also suffered from a bipolar disorder.
Favor Hamilton had her own issues, suffering from postpartum depression after her daughter’s birth in 2005 and coping with the death of her best friend. She later was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft. That drug made her “feel great.”
“Little did we know that giving a bipolar person Zoloft is worse than leaving them untreated,” Favor Hamilton writes. But that wasn’t apparent at the time. She was energetic and motivated.
“I wanted to live with a capital L,” she writes. “I wanted to live like I’d never lived before … I wanted to experiment, try new things, and have adventures far beyond our ordinary life in Madison, which now seemed too predictable and boring.”
That energy manifested itself when Favor Hamilton suggested a trip to Las Vegas as a 20th wedding anniversary celebration. The itinerary would include skydiving and hiring an escort for a threesome.
For one hour and a cost of $1,000 for that threesome, a light went on for Favor Hamilton.
“As far as I was concerned, this was the perfect anniversary celebration,” she writes.
But instead of rekindling her marriage, Favor Hamilton felt a different fire burning. She returned to Vegas for more fun with escorts, hiring a gigolo and eventually moving toward becoming an escort herself.
As she became more entrenched in the escort business, Favor Hamilton would dutifully check the rankings put out by a website, as eager as she might have been when viewing her ratings in a running magazine a decade earlier.
Readers expecting prose out of a Harold Robbins novel or the Penthouse Forum in “Fast Girl” will be disappointed. Favor Hamilton writes tastefully and discreetly about her experiences, giving enough detail to set the scene but never resorting to overly graphic descriptions.
Even though she told a few clients some facts about herself, Favor Hamilton naively believed that they would maintain a discreet silence. That belief blew up when a disgruntled client contacted the Smoking Gun and put them on her story.
Now a certified yoga instructor at age 47, Favor Hamilton has moved to California with her husband and daughter. Despite the notoriety caused by her moonlighting as an escort, she is upbeat and ready to move on. Telling her story has been therapeutic, and even though she has been embarrassed, she does not feel shame.
“That is my greatest hope for this book, to put an end to shame,” she writes. “I am myself living the life I want, not the one that others expect from me or the one that I created out of fantasy and confusion.”
“Fast Girl” delivers a strong message about mental illness and how an untreated bipolar disorder “is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.”
Favor Hamilton was able to defuse her bipolarity, and she is ready to go the distance and cope with life.
Here is a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about six cool collectible cards of Stan Musial, who played his final major-league game 52 years ago this week.
The 1960s were a time of upheaval in pro football.
The old school NFL was battling the brash AFL for center stage, and pro football itself was beginning to rise in popularity among American sports fans.
For football card collectors, 1964 mirrored that turbulence. That was the year Topps lost its license to produce National Football League cards to the Philadelphia Gum Company. After producing NFL cards exclusively since 1956, Topps was forced to switch gears and produce cards of AFL players.
Fleer issued AFL cards from 1960 to 1963, but Topps gained the rights for 1964. That ’64 set doubled the size of the 1963 Fleer set from 88 cards to 176. The Standard Catalog of Football cards notes that the 1964 is “one of the toughest football sets of the 196os to complete.”
That is especially true if one is trying to put together a high-grade set.
The biggest issue for this set was centering. Locating well-centered cards is a big challenge for collectors. Photos were not always sharp, and occasionally cards would be out of register. Plus, the photos themselves were not centered, leaving a lot of dead space. Card No. 158 (Sam Gruniesen) and No. 166 (Charlie McNeil) are perfect examples. There are almost three-quarters of an inch of space above each player’s head. Filling the photo frame did not seem to be a priority.
The large mug shots did fare better than some of the action shots, which at times were skewed to the left or right depending on the photograph.
Card No. 145 of punter Mike Mercer is an example of how the action shot was tiny in relation to the overall card. Same with card No. 141 (Ken Herock). Ed Budde (card No. 93) is literally running off the left side of the card.
On the other hand, there are some nice, full frame photos in the set.
Some that come to mind were Tom Flores (card No. 139), Clem Daniels (card No. 136) and Tom Nomina (card No. 57).
The other issue was the number of cards in the set. With 176 cards, approximately half of the cards are short prints. There are also two checklist cards, and card No. 176 — a short print — is extremely tough to find unmarked and in mint condition.
The design was fairly simple. Players’ photos were ringed by stars, and the background was either in yellow, blue, green or red. The player’s name, team and position were situated at the bottom of the card, with white block letters in a black box near the bottom of the card. The card backs were printed in blue, with a trivia cartoon and stats box (when appropriate) on the right-hand side. Cards are grouped by the team’s home city, with players listed alphabetically.
The photos are not bad in many cases. They are much better than some of the Philadelphia shots from the same year, which depicted members of the Cleveland Browns in an area that looked like a parking lot. Players were posing, and cars were in the background. Strange.
The 1964 Topps football set is the only one where there were team cards for all eight AFL squads. The team photo is on the front, while the back lists the head coach and some of the top players from the previous season.
There are not many key rookies in this set, although Chiefs defensive standouts Buck Buchanan and Bobby Bell made their debuts in this set. So did quarterbacks Daryle Lamonica (Raiders) and John Hadl (Chargers), and Jets running back Matt Snell.
What carries this set are some of the big stars in the AFL that season — Cookie Gilchrist, Don Maynard, Jack Kemp, Len Dawson, George Blanda and Lance Alworth.
There are two major errors in the set. Patriots wide receiver Gino Cappelletti’s name was spelled as “Cappalletti,” and Bills defensive back Ray Abruzzese’s card (No. 22) actually showed a photo of Ed Rutkowski in a posed mug shot. Rutkowski appeared in his own card (No. 35) in a three-point stance.
Collectors buying packs of 1964 Topps got an added bonus — a sticker insert that featured team pennants. In addition to the eight AFL teams, the insert set also included 16 college football team stickers. The peel-off stickers were not numbered and were folded to fit into the pack of cards; every sticker a collector will find will have a crease.
The 1964 Topps football set is usually overshadowed by the more popular tall boy set of ’65. The key card in that set is the Joe Namath rookie, and the unusual size of the 1965 cards makes it an interesting set to collect. But the 1964 set does have some nice cards and presents a difficult, yet rewarding challenge to collectors.
What’s fun about opening a box of Topps Heritage Minor League baseball is the design of the cards, which dovetails nicely with the years I began collecting as a child. Plus, there is always the chance that somebody in this set could become a major-league star someday.
Following the trend of the Heritage set for major-league players, Topps used the 1966 design for this set, which consists of 200 base cards and 25 short prints. A hobby box contains 24 packs, with nine cards to a pack. Topps promises two autograph cards and one memorabilia card in every hobby box.
The hobby box I opened produced 193 base cards and four short prints. Ten of the cards I pulled were league leaders, in the black bordered look of the original ’66 product. There were four parallels — one was orange and numbered to 25, and three were blue. Some packs could contain gum-stained backs like the ’15 Heritage set for major-leaguers did.
The design mimics the 2015 Heritage set for major-leaguers, and the original 1966 Topps set. The difference from the original set is apparent on the back of the card. In the little baseball at the top left corner, the numbers are printed in black; in the original 1966 set, they were red. Curiously, the league leaders from the 2015 set have red numbers inside the baseball.
The front of the card puts the team city and nickname in two lines at the top left-hand corner of the card in a diagonal bar. This causes a few awkward printing examples; whereas the original 1966 set just went with the team nickname, it is important to include the total franchise name for the minor-league set. So, a player competing for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals has to use thin type for the top line.
Another inconsistency is the team colors. The 1966 set’s color scheme was distinct for every team. Every member of the Cincinnati Reds, for example, had a blue bar at the bottom of the front and a blue diagonal bar in the upper left-hand corner.
That’s not the case with this year’s Topps Heritage Minor League baseball. I pulled four different players from the Daytona Tortugas, and each card had a different color scheme. Strange.
One of the fun aspects of this set is the diversity of the team names. There is something cool about rooting for the Akron Rubberducks, the Frederick Keys, the Montgomery Biscuits and the Richmond Flying Squirrels. As for the Modesto Nuts … well, the jury is out on that one.
The two autographs in the hobby box I opened were sticker signatures of Lake Elsinore Storm pitcher Zech Lemond and Inland Empire 66ers pitcher Chris Ellis.
The relic card I pulled was a Clubhouse Collection gray uniform swatch of Jackson Generals third baseman D.J. Peterson.
The inserts for this year’s set include Minor Miracles, which highlights some of the best min0r-league performances of 2014. The design in horizontal, and Topps has a little bit of fun with some catchy, pithy headlines for each. I pulled three of these cards.
Road to the Show depicts the different teams and minor-league classifications players have appeared in as they work toward landing a spot on a major-league roster.
The Make Your Pro Debut promotion returns. The grand prize winner receives a locker and uniform with the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. The winner also will get the chance to participate in warm-ups and batting practice, and throw out the first pitch. This year’s winner was University of Georgia student Tyler Badger, who got to be a member of the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. He also got to meet Astros executive and baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Heady stuff.
This year’s hobby box typically will provide a collector with two chances to win the promotion. I pulled two of these cards, but did not win. The first baseman’s mitt goes back into mothballs for another season.
Topps Heritage Minor League baseball is perfect for set collectors, since a hobby box gets you more than 90 percent of the base set. I particularly like this year’s set because of the 1966 design, which gives me a nice nostalgic feeling.
The minor-league team names have always fascinated me because of their diversity, local flavor and individuality.
Plus, there’s always a possibility that one or more of these minor-league players could become a big star someday. It could happen.
Here is my review on Sports Collectors Daily for the 5th edition of the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball cards. This is a great reference guide if you collect baseball cards before 1980.
Topps Triple Threads baseball is certainly expensive, but collectors know what to expect. After all, Topps has kept the format constant for this set since it debuted nearly a decade ago.
A hobby box can range anywhere from $170 to nearly $200, depending on the seller. As usual, a hobby box contains two mini boxes, with seven cards to a pack. Topps promises one autographed relic and a relic card per mini box, with one of them being a triple relic. Collectors also will find three base cards and two numbered cards.
The base set for this 10th anniversary product is 100 cards and contains current players and retired stars. There are parallels in amethyst (numbered to 354), emerald (250), amber (125), gold (99), onyx (50) and sapphire (25). There also are 1/1 versions in ruby, along with 1/1 printing plates.
But if you’re buying Triple Threads, you are not looking to build a set. It’s the rookies and the big hits that are tantalizing.
Starting with the newer players. The Rookie/Future Phenom autographed relics, with 40 players, represent some of major league baseball’s up and coming stars. This year’s checklist includes Jac Pederson, Jorge Soler, Jose Fernandez, Addison Russell, Noah Syndergaard and Kolten Wong. All of the cards are numbered to 99.
There are parallels, of course, with sepia (numbered to 75), emerald (50) and black with silver ink (35). Cards that are 1/1s include ruby, wood, White Whale and printing plates.
The hobby boxes I opened had some nice hits. The first was a Unity Autographs Jumbo Relics card of Mets pitcher Jacob de Grom, a sepia parallel numbered to 75. The autograph is a sticker, which is always disappointing in a high-end product, but the dark blue swatch is two inches wide by an inch high. Very attractive.
The second hit was an unsigned Relic Combo card of Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton, numbered 36/36. As Topps likes to do with these relics, there is a saying or slogan that is deemed appropriate for the card. This one reads “Pure Power,” and features bat pieces for Pujols and Hamilton and a uniform swatch for Trout.
The hits in the other mini box included a Rookie/Future Phenom autographed card of Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker, a sepia parallel numbered to 75.
Walker’s season, by the way, ended when the Mariners announced this week that they were shutting the 23-year-old down after he threw 169 innings this season, striking out 157 while walking just 40.
Walker’s signature is on-card (no sticker), and the swatches include the Mariners’ northwest green color in the position and number cutouts (P and 32). The other swatch is white and is to the right of the Mariners’ logo.
The other hit in the second mini box is a Unity Single Jumbo Relics card of Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.
This is also a sepia parallel, numbered to 27. The uniform swatch is two inches long and an inch wide.
There were four serial numbered cards spread across the hobby box, two to a mini box. The cards I pulled were Paul Goldschmidt (amethyst, numbered to 354), Sonny Gray (emerald, 250), Freddie Freeman (amber, 125) and Kris Bryant (gold, 99).
I didn’t pull them, but there are some really high-end relic cards. Bat Nameplates are 12 different 1/1 book cards that feature the panel from a bat barrel on one side of the book and uniform swatches on the other. Big names from the past include Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire.
Bat Knobs are also 1/1s, which highlights the end of the bat. This 10-card set boasts Gwynn, McGwire, Wade Boggs, Carlton Fisk and Ken Griffey Jr.
The premium card that would get me excited would come from the Cut Above subset. This is a nine-card set of cut signatures, all 1/1s, and all from Hall of Famers. Look at this list: Bob Feller, Eddie Mathews, Early Wynn, Willie Stargell, Hal Newhouser, Warren Spahn, Ted Williams, and two depicting Joe DiMaggio. The odds of pulling such a card? One in 4,820.
Here is an interesting item on the back of the mini box, where Topps lists the odds of pulling a card and also gives the disclaimer (for example, “Joe DiMaggio is a registered trademark of DiMaggio, LLC”). In capital letters, Topps notes that “Only the name and image of Ted Williams have been licensed by Ted Williams Family Enterprises, Ltd. … Memorabilia and/or cut signatures have not been obtained through Ted Williams Family Enterprises, Ltd.”
It takes up three lines, but hey, you’ve got to have those disclaimers in order. I get that.
A new addition to Triple Threads this year is the Triple Thr3Ds subset. There are 25 cards, which have three swatches and a 3-D design that is labeled lenticular. That means printed images have an illusion of depth, with the ability to change or move as one views the photo from different angles. That’s a nice concept on a baseball card; reminds me of the old Kellogg’s 3-D cards from the early 1970s — but without the cracking that was so prevalent with that set.
Triple Threads has been consistent through the years in its concept. Collectors can pull nice cards and even hope to pull bigger ones. It’s a high ticket item, but the rewards can be great. As with any expensive product, you roll the dice.
The baseball world was saddened today by the death of one of its most beloved players, Yogi Berra. Here is a collage of some of his cards through the year. No way I found them all, but this is a nice cross section. RIP Yogi.
Here is a preview of Panini America's Contenders Football set, which has a planned release date of December 30. My story on Sports Collectors Daily:
Card No. 1 has been the home of some pretty big names in Topps’ flagship baseball set since 1952.
And beginning Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. EDT, Topps will let the fans help choose card No. 1 for its 2016 set. The company announced it will conduct online balloting to determine the card that will kick off its 65th anniversary set. Voting will take place at Topps.com/blog.
The pedigree of card No. 1 carries some big names. Sure, Andy Pafko was card No. 1 in the 1952 set, but some heavy hitters and big stars have occupied that space since: Jackie Robinson (1953), Ted Williams (1954, ’57, ’58), Roger Maris (1962), Willie Mays (1966), Hank Aaron (1974, ’75, ’76), Pete Rose (1986), Nolan Ryan (1990, ’91, ’92), Barry Bonds (1997), Cal Ripken Jr. (2001) and Alex Rodriguez (2003, ’05, ’06). Derek Jeter was the leadoff card for the 2015 set.
That’s just scratching the surface. Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Tony Gwynn, Pedro Martinez and Bryce Harper also have been depicted on card No. 1.
During the first-round online balloting, which runs from Wednesday through October 4, collectors and fans will be able to choose from a list of more than 30 players; each team will have at least one representative.
The list of 30 will be narrowed to five on October 4. Voting for the top five will run from October 5-11 with the winner to be announced October 12 on the Topps blog.
“Being featured on Card No. 1 in the Topps Baseball flagship has been an honor Topps has been able to bestow on baseball players for over 60 years,” Clay Luraschi, Topps’ vice president of product development, said in a news release. “It’s a coveted spot and we wanted our collectors to be involved in that decision.”
So who do you like at No.1? Giancarlo Stanton? Andrew McCutchen? Mike Trout? Clayton Kershaw?
Starting Wednesday, you’ll have your chance to make it happen.
An Upper Deck mainstay for 23 years The Cup returns in December promising more big hits. My story on Sports Collectors Daily:
Here is a pretty nice story I wrote on Sports Collectors Daily about Nate Adams, a music teacher at an inner city elementary school in South Florida. Nate has been using sports cards as a way to reward students who display good citizenship, make the right choices, and prevent others from bullying (while also refraining from bullying as well).
College football, in its purest form, is about tradition and loyalty. It’s not about dollars and cents, although it would be naïve to believe that money doesn’t play a role.
Hype the tradition, and the money will flow. Mess with it, and you’re playing with fire.
“The people who fill the stands year in and year out, rain or shine, are not customers,” John U. Bacon writes in his seventh book. “They’re believers. Break faith with your flock, and you will not get them back with fancier wine.”
That’s what happened to a proud Michigan program. In “Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football” (St. Martin’s Press; hardback; $27.99; 464 pages), Bacon writes about the loss of identity suffered by college football’s winningest program, and the efforts by students, lettermen, regents and alumni to reclaim it.
Written over a six-month span, “Endzone” is a well-researched page-turner that begins with Michigan’s storied past and ends with the backroom strategies that landed Jim Harbaugh as the Wolverines’ new coach. But it is the management style of Dave Brandon, who served as athletic director from 2010 to 2014, that is the meat of this book. Brandon, a former Michigan regent who left his post as a successful CEO of Domino’s Pizza — and took a big pay cut in the process — nevertheless had no experience in running a college athletic department.
Brandon was one of three key players in “Endzone” who declined to be interviewed — former football coach Brady Hoke and former school president Mary Sue Coleman were the other two — but Bacon has plenty of sources and detail that renders that omission almost irrelevant.
Brandon dispenses with the past, overhauling the athletic department by replacing longtime staff members. Many longtime coaches left the program when they were unable to “win it all,” despite years of success. Brandon also created a culture of fear among his employees. The Friday afternoon email that announced the departure of another worker became a dreaded ritual.
“I’ve never covered a story so fraught with fear,” Bacon writes.
Brandon made no secret that he was comfortable with dispensing with the past in order to focus on the future. But in his defense, Brandon stuck up for the athletes he oversaw, establishing a rapport, always keeping his door open for any athlete who needed to talk. Punter Will Hagerup, whose backstory is another fascinating theme in “Endzone,” credits him as being a mentor.
“All I know is the guy changed my life, made me a better person, and I owe him everything,” said Hagerup, who failed two drug tests and is one of the good guys in “Endzone,” providing perspective on Brandon and on the locker room culture under Hoke, who was fired after the Wolverines’ 5-7 showing in 2014.
Brandon’s compassion for Michigan’s players did not always apply to other school members and alumni, Bacon asserts.
“I suggest you find a new team to support,” Brandon apparently wrote in response to a fan’s email. “We will be fine without you.”
“The emails were not the product of a heated moment,” Bacon writes. “They revealed the man for exactly who he was, by his own hand.”
Those actions would lead to Brandon’s resignation in late October 2014.
Brandon made no secret about remaking the athletic department in his own image, overhauling student ticket policies and working to maximize revenue and profits. While it’s true that Michigan’s revenues in athletics rose during Brandon’s tenure, so did its expenses.
And so did the criticisms. Michigan alums were offended when a large Kraft noodle appeared beneath the north scoreboard of the stadium with the message “You know you love it,” written on it. An advertising noodle at the Big House went over like, well, a wet noodle. It was quickly removed, because frankly, nobody loved it.
The Wolverines’ 41-30 victory against Notre Dame was chock full of Brandon’s marketing vision — flyovers, rock music and Beyoncé introducing the halftime show.
“That’s a pretty powerful message about what Michigan is all about, and that’s our job to send out that message,” Brandon said afterward.
Another message Brandon approved was the playing the “Chicken Dance” over the public address system when the game ended, a slap at the Fighting Irish for discontinuing its longtime series with Michigan.
Bacon pulls no punches about Brandon, who landed on his feet after he left Michigan and is now CEO for Toys “R” Us. He delves into Brandon’s wealth, his penchant for hobnobbing with players on the sidelines, cutting down a net after a huge basketball victory, and even singing Michigan’s fight song, “The Victors.”
Certainly, many of the criticisms were self-inflicted, as Brandon’s behavior was scorned by his fellow athletic directors. Not that he cared, mind you.
There are other delicious subplots in “Endzone.”
The story of student government leaders Michael Proppe and Bobby Dishell, who battled ticket policies, shows the determination and moxie of students who knew what was right and pursued the means to make it so.
Proppe’s presentation about Michigan’s attendance and the general admission seating policy is a dream chapter for a numbers geek, and especially entertaining as the student slices and dices the athletic department’s figures. While Michigan claimed its attendance had gone up under the new policy, Proppe skewered that by comparing the starting times of games in 2011-12 and 2013 and their attendance figures. A 3:30 game in 2011, for example, had better attendance than a game with the same starting time in 2013.
“When you’re analyzing attendance, the stratifying variable is the start time of the game,” Proppe said. “If you miss that, you’ll read the numbers incorrectly.”
When Proppe finished his presentation, the faculty gave him a standing ovation.
The biggest departure in Michigan’s athletic program was ignoring former AD Don Canham’s mantra about crisis management: “Never turn a one-day story into a two-day story.”
That was never more apparent than during a late September 2014 involving Michigan quarterback Shane Morris, who left the game after suffering a concussion and then was put back in the game when his replacement’s helmet popped off of the next play (requiring him to sit out a play) and the third string quarterback could not find his helmet. Morris stayed in for just one more play, but the fact that he was even allowed to return to the field was unacceptable.
So too, was the way Michigan’s PR staff handled the incident, making it much more than “a one-day story.”
This is also the incident that signals the end for Hoke. Bacon paints him as a compassionate coach, who saw early success with 11 victories in his first season as head coach. But by 2014 the program was spiraling downward, and when Hoke was fired after the season the search began for a new coach.
Actually, it had already begun, sparked by alumni and former lettermen that were hell-bent on returning Harbaugh back to his alma mater. The final pages of “Endzone” details the intrigue and back channel methods used to lure the mercurial Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor. Interim athletic director Jim Hackett used his talents to complete the deal.
“Some jobs are for God and country,” Bacon writes. “This was one of them.
“Michigan had its man.”
The concept of the “Michigan Man,” is ingrained in all UM alumni. There’s a mystique about it. How a person handles himself: does he do it with class, does he do it ethically, is it the right way?
During Brandon’s tenure, some alumni believed that idea had gone away.
Yale Van Dyne, a 1992 graduate, told Bacon that “our once classy and great school somehow feels cheap, tacky, and frankly, desperate for attention.”
“You can talk about being a Michigan Man, or you can be one,” Bacon concludes. “But you can’t do both.”
Bacon shows that image is trying to make a comeback. You don’t have to be a “Michigan Man” to enjoy reading “Endzone.” Bacon’s prose, wit, research and attention to detail makes this book a must-read for anyone who loves college football.
Here is a story I did for Sports Collectors Daily on Steve Anderson, a Minnesota resident who just self-published a book about retro tabletop football games. What a collection this guy has! He owns more than 275 games himself, and this book, while mostly a photo book, is quite a collectible.
For collectors who enjoy shiny cards and hunting down prospect cards, 2015 Bowman Chrome baseball provides the perfect marriage.
A hobby box has 18 packs, with four cards to a pack. Topps promises two autograph cards per hobby box, and that was the case in the box that I opened. The price is affordable, in the $60 to $70 range depending on the retailer.
The base set contains 200 veteran and rookie cards, plus an additional 100 prospect cards. The prospect cards are numbered from 151 to 250. There are parallels, of course, produced as refractors. Straight refractors, purple, blue, green and gold are coupled with hobby exclusive orange (numbered to 125), red (5) and Superfractors (1/1).
The design is pretty much what one has come to expect from Bowman Chrome — an action shot of the player set against a chrome background that exhibits a soft focus. I really enjoy the vertical design on the card fronts, too.
The card backs have dark blue and silver bordering for prospects, while the veteran and rookie cards have white and dark blue trim on the back; the blue is at the top of the card back for prospects, and at the bottom for vets/rookies.
The hobby box I opened yielded 27 base cards and 30 prospects, plus a pair of orange parallels.
There were refractor cards of Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and Cardinals outfield prospect Rowan Wick, both numbered to 499.
An Anibal Sanchez purple refractor, numbered to 250, also was in the mix.
The autographs, as promised, were on-card signatures, and there were two of them. The first one I pulled was of Giants pitching prospect Luis Ysla. The second was a green refractor of Dodgers pitching prospect Zach Bird, numbered to 99.
Several types of inserts dot the set. One making its debut this season is Series Next, a 35-card die-cut series that focuses on up-and-coming young players. There were two in the box I opened, including Marlins pitching star Jose Fernandez.
Bowman Scouts Updates is a 25-card subset that, well, updates the collector on a player’s progress. Some already have made it to the majors, while others are climbing steadily through the minors. This card provides a view of that player’s progress; I pulled three of these cards.
A sharp-looking insert is the Prospect Profiles mini card. These are not minis in the traditional Topps sense. These cards are just as tall as the base cards, but are about two-thirds of the width. There are 25 cards in the set, and I also found three of these cards.
Bowman Chrome helps the prospect collector scratch his itch, providing cards of players that could have a future in the majors. For fans of teams that won’t be in the playoffs this year, that is a positive outlook. The future always looks brighter.
The Minnesota Vikings made their NFL debut 54 years ago today, shocking the Chicago Bears. The Vikings have had plenty of success through the years, but they still lack a Super Bowl trophy despite four appearances in the big game.
Bizarre finishes and quirky plays dot the team's history. Here is my look back on www.smackapparel.com :
What’s nice about Topps Inception football is the thick card stock, on-card autographs in some cases, and generous swatches of game-used memorabilia.
That formula has not changed for the 2015 version of Inception. A box will consist of one pack, with seven cards to a pack. Topps promises two autographs or auto relic cards, and one relic card.
The base set consists of 100 cards, all veterans. Green and purple parallels will be seeded one in every two packs. Other parallels include magenta, numbered to 99; red (75); orange (50); blue (25); and diamond (1/1). A framed printing plate is also offered as a 1/1.
The base set design puts an action shot of the player against a soft background of several colors, with hues of magenta and blue prevalent in the one base card I saw of DeSean Jackson. The Redskins’ wide receiver was also one of the two red parallels I pulled from the pack I opened. The other was of Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. The other parallel I found was a magenta card of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.
The first autograph card was an on-card signature of Ravens tight end Maxx Williams, numbered to 99. The second signature was an autograph jumbo patch card of Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates. This was printed on thick card stock, and although the autograph is on a sticker, the signature is nice. The relic piece is a black-and-white swatch.
The parallels for signature cards mirror the base card set, the exception being there are no printing plate autographs. Some collectors might pull an Inception Silver Signings card, which will fall one in every 12 packs. This card combines silver ink and a black design. There are gold parallels, too.
The final big hit was a rookie jumbo relic card of Jets rookie defensive tackle Leonard Williams. This card contained a 2-inch by 2-inch green jersey swatch.
Topps Inception is a middle- to high-end product and should sell in the $80 to $95 range. It offers some nice hits, with plenty of chances to pick up rookie autographs. As the set coincides with the early part of football training camp, it is an attractive first look at those players who could make an impact this season in the NFL.
Topps signed Astros rookie Carlos Correa to an exclusive multiyear autograph deal in August, and his first auto card appeared in the 2015 Bowman Chrome set that debuted on September 4.
That’s just the beginning. On Monday, Topps announced the other sets Correa will be featured in this year.
Correa, who turns 21 on September 22, is scheduled to have autograph cards in 2015 Triple Threads, which hits the shelves on Wednesday. That will be followed by appearances in Topps Supreme and the Heritage High Number set.
Collectors also can find Correa’s autographs in Topps High Tek, Bowman’s Best, Topps Heritage ’51, Strata and Topps Update..
The Houston shortstop is batting .277 in 80 games this season with 18 homers and 52 RBIs. He also has scored 42 runs and has stolen 12 bases.
The 3-D baseball cards issued by Kellogg's fun and tough to collect, since you couldn't get a complete set through the mail. You had to tear open boxes of cereal to get them. Whether you ate the cereal or not, was, I suppose, irrelevant. Here is my story on Sports Collectors Daily:
Topps is coming out with a high-end buyback autograph product in December. It's called Topps Archives Signature Series, and it will showcase one pack that contains one autographed buyback card in a protective case. Here is my story on Sports Collectors Daily:
Here is my latest blog post for the website, smackapparel.com . I take a look at the top 10 (in my opinion, of course) NFL rivalries of all time.
Topps Heritage will be released the first week in March and will boast the design of the 1967 Topps flagship set. That was one of the crispest, coolest sets of the 1960s. My story about what to expect on March can be found at Sports Collectors Daily:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Topps' first NFL product, the 1956 set.
Topps is celebrating its 60th season of issuing pro football cards this year, and the 2015 version celebrates the present while paying tribute to the past.
Topps has come a long way since making its NFL debut with the 1956 set. That was a 120-card base set that also had an unmarked checklist and five contest cards. This year’s base set contains 500 cards — up from 440 last year — with plenty of rookies, subsets, inserts and parallels. Topps has also thrown in some variations, keying on stars from the past in several cases—Bo Jackson, Jerry Rice, Eric Dickerson, Lawrence Taylor, Dan Marino and Mike Singletary are some of the big names.
A hobby box has 36 packs, with 10 cards to a box. Topps is promising at least one rookie card in every pack, plus one autograph or relic card.
The box I opened yielded 304 base cards, including 72 rookies. Subsets within the base set include Fantasy Studs and All-Pro cards. Topp 60 is a nod to the top 60 players in game today, and this is the reason there are 60 more cards in the base set. There is a team card from this year’s Rookie Premiere weekend.
I was kind of torn about this year’s design. At first glance, it seemed very busy to me — too many elements and perhaps not enough photo. Then I noticed that the format worked better for cards with action shots that rely on more of a big picture, rather than zoomed in or glorified mug shots. It doesn’t work in the latter instance. Perhaps I was hoping for more of a full-bleed design.
That being said, the set is very complete and includes all the top stars and rookies.
As usual, there are parallels. Gold parallels are numbered to 2015, and there are BCA Pink (499), STS Camo (399), platinum (1/1) and printing plates (1/1). The hobby box I opened had four golds and one BCA Pink. It also had a 60th Anniversary parallel of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, numbered appropriately to 60 and sporting a silver foil stamp commemorating Topps’ milestone.
That milestone theme is put to good use with a 100-card 60th Anniversary insert set. These cards fall one in every other pack and feature Topps designs from the last six decades. Some of them are quite beautiful, like the 1959 and 1984 sets. Others, like the 1962 look, were better off left in the vault.
True to the average, I pulled 12 of these cards from the hobby box I opened. In fact, every insert I pulled matched the average “odds of pulling cards” that Topps puts on the outside of its wrappers.
A new insert this year is the double-sided Past and Present Performers. This 30-card subset falls once in every six packs on average and features a player from the past on one side of the card and a current star on the other.
Two insert sets focus on the fantasy football aspect of the game. All Time Fantasy Legends looks back at the numbers some players generated to enable fantasy geeks to win their respective leagues.
Fantasy Focus looks at the 2015 production of selected stars and also projects what rookies might have a chance to excel. Both are 50-card sets and fall one in every four packs. I pulled nine of each in the box I sampled.
Fantasy Focus looks at the 2015 production of selected stars and also projects what rookies might have a chance to excel. Both are 50-card sets and fall one in every four packs. I pulled nine of each in the box I sampled.
Some old standbys also return: the 10-card 4,000 Club, which focuses on quarterbacks; and the 30-card 100o-yard Club, which honors running backs and wide receivers. Both fall about six per hobby box.
The hot card in this set was a sticker autograph of Bucs rookie wide receiver Kenny Bell.
My hobby box also had a buyback card: a 1979 card of Bears middle linebacker Tom Hicks. The card was in decent shape, albeit slightly off center. A red foil stamp denoted the card’s anniversary status.
Topps Football is a great set for set builders, and there are plenty of inserts and rookie cards to keep a collector interested. The company has had better designs before, but this one is functional. The highlights to me were the brilliant-colored inserts that paid tribute to designs from earlier Topps products.
Topps notes in its news release about Apex soccer that the product “has made its debut with a splash.”
My thoughts exactly, but for a different reason. Topps’ main point on this Major League Soccer card set is that there are no redemptions in the inaugural set. And that certainly is great news. With soccer growing in popularity in this country — particularly among younger players and collectors — announcing that the product has no redemption cards is a smart move.
The splash I noticed was from Topps’ design for this set. The colors are vibrant, and the action shots are, well, splashy. The bottom half of every base card makes it seem as though the player is competing in a wading pool, splashing water as they run, kick, tackle or save. It’s not a bad look, to be honest. It’s just a first impression on my part. Others may see it as artistic license, and that’s cool, too.
A hobby box of Topps Apex has two mini-boxes, with 32 cards to a box. Topps is promising one autograph per mini-box and a total of three hits per hobby box— two autographs and a memorabilia card.
The base set contains 100 cards, plus 10 short-printed cards. There are parallels, too: gold, numbered to 50; orange (25), red (5), black (1/1) and printing plates (1/1). There are two different insert sets: Captains, a 20-card subset that pays tribute to the team leaders; and Alliances, a 15-card offering that features two top players paired together on the same card.
Between the two mini-boxes I pulled 51 base cards and a gold parallel of Fanendo Adi of the Portland Timbers. There were two Captains inserts: Bobby Boswell (D.C. United) and Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC). The one Alliance insert also included a pair of Sounders — Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey.
As Topps promised, there were two autographs to be found. The first one was a base autograph parallel of Colorado Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers. It’s a sticker autograph, and the signature is penned right above the player’s name on the card.
The second one is a little more out of the ordinary, a hobby exclusive Match Day Die-Cut Autograph Relic of Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers). This card combines a sticker autograph with a match-used piece of a soccer ball. This card is on thick stock and is cut in the shape of a parallelogram (who says I don’t remember my geometry?). Very nice looking card; it’s one of 21 different offerings in the subset.
The memorabilia hit is also printed on thick card stock. It’s a Crest Jumbo Relic card of Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Darren Mattocks, numbered to 99. This card incorporates a jersey swatch and the MLS logo.
Other hits that can be found in this set are Now and Then dual autographs, Dual Autographs and Dual Relics.
For soccer fans, Apex is definitely a splashy debut.
I love to blog about sports books and give my opinion. Baseball books are my favorites, but I read and review all kinds of books.